Council gives second reading to downtown bus depot idea

Town of Slave Lake
Council notebook

Feb. 5, 2019

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Get your water meter changed, or else

‘At some point we’re going to have to charge people,’ town manager Brian Vance told council at its Feb. 5 meeting. He was speaking about the water meter upgrades that everybody has to have done. The procedure so far has been for residents to make appointments for the change-over. Town staff has been trying to get hold of people who haven’t already made appointments; but it’s been tough, Vance said, with many phone numbers not working. Other methods of notification are also only working up to a point, and at some point a line has to be drawn.
“We are considering setting May 1 as the date where we charge people the core charge if they don’t get their meter changed,” Vance said.

Problem at the water plant

Vance reported that a glitch at the water treatment plant had caused too much chlorine to get into the water. It was caught and corrected before it left the plant, however, thanks to a storage capacity of several days’ worth of water.
“Fortunately we have that buffer,” Vance said. “In the old days it would have gone straight out to the town.”

Downtown bus depot, Episode II

An application to have a bus depot in downtown Slave Lake took another step towards what might end up being approval. The bylaw change that would allow such an operation in the downtown commercial zone was back before council with some amendments. This followed a public hearing a few weeks ago at which strong reservations about the viability and possible problems associated were expressed. For one thing, the Municipal Planning Commission didn’t like it, foreseeing all sorts of problems.
The MPC didn’t like the amended version either, council heard. Julie Brandle, who sits on the MPC, said that body had looked at it the night before and rejected it.
However, council voted in favour of second reading of the bylaw change, with only Brandle opposed. Another public hearing is scheduled for March 5.
The principal change to the bylaw is a separation of ‘bus and taxi depot’ into two definitions – one ‘major’ and one ‘minor.’ As proposed, a ‘minor’ depot would be for buses of 20 passengers or fewer.
Brandle had questions about parking. Where would it be? How could it be accommodated? That would be dealt with in the development permit process, she was told. Any developer has to come up with a parking plan – and if it doesn’t meet the requirements, the proposal wouldn’t fly.

A bus company hopes to set up its depot at the Plaza 2000.

Downtown plan gets a tweak

Council gave first reading to a bylaw amending “various sections of the Land Use Bylaw with respect to the Downtown and Main Street Area Plan.”
We’ll spare you the details and just say it is an attempt to bring the zoning rules and definitions into line with council’s philosophy of ‘revitalizing’ downtown Slave Lake. Those efforts included the hiring of a consultant last year; also convening a group of local stakeholders to have their say on the subject.
One of the goals of the bylaw change is (or had been) to “stop the migration of small boutique shops to the highway,” council heard. However, the conclusion in the written report before council was that this would be more difficult than anticipated, because it would create lots of non-conforming spaces in the highway commercial area.
A public hearing on the bylaw is scheduled for March 5.

Re-zoning the old fire hall

The town has been trying to sell the old fire hall on Caribou Trail. Council heard that somebody is interested in it, and to facilitate the sale, a change in zoning is in order.
The current zoning is ‘institutional,’ which does not permit industrial uses. The proposal is to change it to the M1 – Light Industrial District, which would match what it around it.
Council gave first reading to the bylaw and set March 5 as the date for the required public hearing.
“We’re excited to see some interest in that building,” said mayor Tyler Warman.

Inter-municipal SDAB

Council is moving ahead with a plan to set up a regional Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (ISDAB). This would be with the County of Big Lakes, and Towns of Swan Hills and High Prairie. The idea is it would be less onerous than for each small municipality to maintain its own SDAB. A regional one would be more efficient and possibly less expensive for each of the partners. The M.D. of Lesser Slave River council had been invited to participate, but rejected the notion.
The proposal is for each partner to provide three members to a 12-member panel, plus one staff person. Quorum would be five people. Participating municipalities would be responsible for travel and other costs only for its members.
The only sticking point for council was the 12-month notification period for pulling out. What if it doesn’t work? asked mayor Warman. Twelve months is a long time.
However, that wasn’t a deal-breaker for him.
“I’ll travel down the rabbit hole tonight,” Warman said. “But after a year if it’s not working for us….”
Typically, SDABs hear appeals on decisions on development proposals by the Municipal Planning Commission.

Mayor’s corner

Mayor Warman wrapped up the meeting with a report on a couple of weeks of activities.
Lots of work on FireSmart, he said, “finding a new way forward.”
A full day of training for the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board is in the books. Normally trainees would have to go to Edmonton; this time it was done at home.
A steering committee for a review of the town’s sign regulations has been set and had a meeting. Warman said it represents “a good cross-section” of the community. One thing proposed early on is a relaxation of the off-site signage rules. Another thing the town heard from the committee members:
“Digital signs are not really doing it for us. We need to find something better.”
It was suggested the old method of sandwich boards on islands in Main St. were more effective. Brian Vance, the CAO, remarked that the sandwich board system had its drawbacks, as they were prone to being blown off the islands into the street.
Warman: “On the other hand, we had a dozen people in the room who said they never look at the digital signs. We spend lots of money on those.”
Warman mentioned meeting with Ron White, the Commissioner of the Western States Hockey League. That’s the outfit that wants to put a Junior ‘A’ team in Slave Lake.
“They seem very committed and enthusiastic,” he said.
An all-day meeting on regional economic development with provincial officials was “frustrating,” Warman said.
“They want to see collaboration with our neighbours, but the province is not bringing a lot to the table to make it happen.”
The consensus: “We’ll figure it out on our own.”

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